Synchromistic Works –- Abstractionism, a Culmination
In 1933, Krehbiel began a series of synchromistic figure compositions, first in watercolor and in oil on small unstretched pieces of canvas and, later in pastel and in oil on larger canvases. The figures in this series reproduce the postures of models in his art classes and, while naturalistic at first, they gradually become geometric, even somewhat cubist. In 1942, Krehbiel wrote in a letter to Evans:
". . . .(I) never thought of them as nudes, but simply as a power in organization. . . . it became a problem of thrusts and counter thrusts, much like a chess game."
Krehbiel developed these experiments into a method of teaching figure by having students compose while drawing. Sketches of a three-figure model group, observed from various points in the room, would be rendered on a single sheet of paper – or a series of quick poses by one model would be composed on a single sheet. In regard to this teaching method, Krehbiel writes:
"The student should create at the same time he is learning to draw. . . . He has to have ideas to make his drawing count."
As for the results of his own efforts along these lines, he later speculated:
". . . .I may be able to peddle them for five or ten a piece when I get out of a job."
Krehbiel also produced a large number of landscapes in this synchromistic and relatively abstract style beginning in 1926. Created mainly in Saugatuck, most of these works were done in pastel on paper and were predominantly 9" x 11" and 10” x 12” in size. With most of the pieces, the bright colors seem to emit luminescence and the landscape characteristics come together in sections of singular blended forms.
In the early 1940s, Krehbiel created a grouping of very large synchromistic figure compositions on soft-toned paper using pastel, watercolor, and colored chalk -- at times employing a combination of these mediums. Similar in structure to his smaller figure compositions, these works contain throngs of hauntingly composed groups of figures with a mystic quality, sure in line and merged in bold areas of brilliant color.(5)
Inspired by a major exhibition of works by Pablo Picasso at The Art Institute of Chicago in 1940, Krehbiel also drew a number of colorful large abstract studies using chalk on the same type of soft-toned paper. These experimental compositions were amusingly signed “Picasso . . par AHK” and were largely done for the enjoyment of his fellow members at the Cliff Dwellers. Relating his feelings about abstract art and the artist’s right and ability to successfully procure its formulation, Krehbiel writes:
“Often I have been asked by my students to start a class outside and teach abstract art but I tell them it is no use, it cannot be taught. It is the sum of a classical education and comes only with the study of a motif when all is boiled down to its very essence.” (2)